In my last installment, I brought up two Gameboy games that I feel warranted a replay. Today, I have two Playstation 2 games that deserve another chance – Mister Mosquito and Crash Bandicoot: The Wrath of Cortex.
One of the strangest games on the PS2, Mister Mosquito’s premise is simple: you are a mosquito and you need to do what mosquitoes do best – suck blood. This is done to the detriment of the Yamada family, who take increasingly excessive measures to stop the single mosquito. It’s all necessary because as a simple mosquito, you must make the most of the summer in collecting blood to survive the long winter ahead.
When the game came out, it was met with neutral to warm reviews, with its novelty and uniqueness cited as a key aspect of its appeal. Each level consists of a room layout and a Yamada family member. The family member will loop their behavior, and add different defense mechanisms as you get to the later stages. During each level, you play as the small mosquito, and the target humans are proportionally “life size” in comparison. You must collect a predetermined number of vials of blood by sticking and attaching to the humans and completing a bloodsucking loop. It’s not always so easy as the family employs increasingly sophisticated self-defense measures including sprays and swatters. Furthermore, they grow increasingly vigilant to your antics. The counter is to “attack” the human’s stress spots, which slowly relaxes or incapacitates them and allows for efficient blood withdrawal.
While certainly novel and quirky, the game itself was not very long. The art style has that Japanese animation flair, along with generally uneventful furnishings in the rooms. However, the game is fun for what it is – a level by level “puzzle” where a bit of patience and bit of planning ultimately lead to success. Replay value is not very high, as each level can be “figured out” but flying around but looking at the room layouts and traps can be interesting. The main skill element, sucking the blood, reminds me of the attacks in Shadow of the Colossus where you have to balance the amount of damage you do while dealing with the ability to hold on to continue such attacks.
All in all, Mister Mosquito is worth a quick replay. When it first came out, me and a couple friends would take turns during each level, trying out our respective strategies. While the game received a sequel (Mister Mosquito 2: Let’s Go Hawaii), it was never localized in the US and thus stateside citizens are only left to wonder what could have been. While I do not think its available in digital, finding a used copy is not difficult nor very expensive. Give it a try.
Crash Bandicoot: The Wrath of Cortex
While the prior games in this series have been slightly off the mainstream, Crash Bandicoot was a beloved Playstation series. However, the attention is always centered on the Naughty Dog trifecta of Crash, Crash 2, and Warped. While I love those three games (and replay them with some regularity), it is The Wrath of Cortex that was the true swan song to the franchise before it was brutally enslaved by Activision (also RIP Spyro).
Wrath of Cortex was not developed by Naughty Dog, but the basic gameplay remains the same. Running through levels in third person, slide dashing, jumping, and smashing boxes. The graphics are crisper on the PS2, and the story follows Aku Aku’s masked counterparts representing the elements (Earth, Wind, Water, Fire). Familiar faces like Coco and Tiny make appearances, along with some new characters like Crunch-a bionic bandicoot.
Wrath rehashes what the original games did well, solid gameplay with platforming and collecting, along with bright and colorful visuals. Crash was still the de facto face of Playstation as a rival to the infamous Mario. The level variety continues with levels involving running toward the camera, away from the camera, floating in space, jet skiing in water, and the different boss battles. Wrath of Cortex gave fans more of what they wanted, all updated for the new system. My only gripe was that some of the levels did not feel as tight as the original games (especially the water mask boss fight), but that is really just a minor criticism.
What happened to Crash after Wrath was a sad story. The IP was sold to Activision and made into a series of games that are best avoided. The franchise was milked, and the Crash we knew and loved was turned into something different entirely. While rumors surfaced that Naughty Dog or Sony wanted to get the rights back for a reboot, it appears Activision might take the lead on that – most likely preventing any real hope of a return to form for our fallen hero.
While you may be a fan of the Naughty Dog Crash, give Traveller’s Tales Crash a try. The game brought Crash into the PS2 era while remaining true to form, and Wrath will be the last solid Crash title absent a miraculous turnaround. The game is easy to find used, and is not restricted to PS2, you can also play it on your classic, oversized controller via Xbox.